New Congo Square
Basin Street Records
What Los Hombres Calientes-percussionist Bill Summers and trumpeter Irvin Mayfield-does on its third latest release is connect the dots between what New Orleans' fabled Congo Square once was and has become. They reopen a musical bridge between New Orleans, the West Indies and the Afro-Latino Diaspora that traverses samba to santeria, reggae to merengue with a superbly simmered gumbo of Crescent City jazz and a diverse array of musical spices.
Irvin Mayfield keeps the CD hot, holding the torch for the port city's past trumpet kings. His young jubilant voice exudes a warm bluesy personality with gutsy street roots. Yet appassionato probably best describes his rendering of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Corcovado/Nocturnal Low Moan," with his screaming funky side surfacing on "New Second Line (Mardi Gras 2001)." Drum guru Bill Summers, who grooved the masses with Herbie Hancock's Headhunters, conjures the spirits of the ancients and the African roots of jazz on his "Warrior Suite."
Gone from Los Hombres is drummer Jason Marsalis, replaced by Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez, the well-respected Cuban drummer who helps them tie the Big Easy to his Caribbean homeland. There's drive and command as he maneuvers through a sphere of beats with his three-part drum sonnet "El Negro." Like a riverboat on the mighty Mississippi, it's the subtle undercurrents he creates that propel the party along like a carnival comparsa.
Like any great New Orleans parade, New Congo Square picks up a lot of special guests along the way. Cuban singer Issac Delgado, the Rebirth Brass Band, Burning Spear, Kermit Ruffins, Phillip Manuel and many others make this dance-happy slice of New Orleans life a great lesson in revisionist history.